Governor Don Carcieri pledged nearly two years ago to bring wind power to a state where there is just one operating wind turbine. His goal was to get 15 percent of the state’s electrical power from wind by 2011, which would require about 100 turbines.
That goal now seems unlikely because no one has decided where to put a wind farm, it’s not clear how the project will be paid for, and public opposition – a major wild card – is unknown, according to Carcieri’s top energy adviser, Andrew Dzykewicz.
Still, he is hopeful the Ocean State will be getting a large portion of its energy from wind sometime after 2012.
New England has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation.
Wind is free and abundant along the coastline.
Also, unlike fossil fuels, wind turbines do not produce the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Carcieri hopes wind power can help stabilize electricity costs and increase supply.
In January 2006, he announced an energy plan that included measures such as using hydropower, overhauling the state’s electric market, reducing state government’s energy use, and incorporating the use of wind power.
Later, he said he thought the state could reach the wind goal around the time his term ends in 2011.
This spring, his administration proposed building about 100 offshore wind turbines in Narragansett Bay, enough to power about 175,000 homes.
The only major wind turbine in the state is at Portsmouth Abbey, a monastery and school.
Carcieri’s administration has made some progress, but it’s been slow going.
“We won’t have the blades turning by the time he’s gone,” Dzykewicz said.
Dzykewicz said the state could have an offshore wind farm in the next five to seven years.
But even that could be too optimistic.
Across the border in Massachusetts, opponents of a plan to build 130 wind turbines off Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound have stymied the Cape Wind project for more than six years because of fears that it could spoil views of the water and cause a hazard for boaters.
With fishing and tourism also key industries in Rhode Island, a similar proposal for an offshore wind farm could face similar opposition in the Ocean State.
No other state has built an offshore wind farm, forcing Rhode Island’s government to start the process nearly from scratch.
One of the state’s main environmental regulatory bodies, the Coastal Resources Management Council, has not even decided what it requires from prospective wind power developers.
The state also hasn’t settled on a basic question: Where to put wind turbines.
Earlier this year, Dzykewicz’s office had assembled a panel of wind power advocates, environmentalists, and others to whittle down the list of promising locations.
It met four times, then decided it did not have enough information to make decisions.
At least two developers and several finance firms have said they are interested.
By Ray Henry
1 December 2007
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